Podcast - Singing To Save The Ganga

by Praveen S - Jul 26, 2015 01:25 PM +05:30 IST
Podcast - Singing To Save The Ganga

Swarajya speaks to Trichur brothers – the duo behind the Namami Gange anthem. Here is the story of how the anthem and the accompanying video were produced.

https://soundcloud.com/swarajya/namami-gange-trichur-brothers-interview

Carnatic musicians duo, Shrikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan, popularly known as Trichur Brothers, have composed the official anthem for cleaning up the river Ganga. Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 Madison Square Garden speech, Shrikrishna and Ram decided to compose and shoot a mock video and send it to the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). The NMCG replied within a month asking them if they could play their composition at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat summits. They are currently working on the complete video for the music piece they have composed.

Below: the Namami Gange song trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyJC6mXTCak

Sons of Trichur R Mohan, a celebrated mrudangam doyen, the brothers who are qualified chartered accountants, and have performed Carnatic music concerts across the world, have taken up this task for a national cause.

“It is not just the 500 odd elected MPs that are responsible for a change to happen in this country, we as citizens also have a responsibility”, says Ram.

Shrikrishna adds, “Though the Ganges is being marketed as a spiritual river, 40% of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on it for their livelihoods. Also, every country needs water conservation.”

“We are very active on twitter and it is heartening to see so many individuals forming their own little groups cleaning the river and the ghats and without expecting the administration’s help! As a leader it is not only important to set up bodies and allocate funds, but also inspire the masses and the Prime Minister is doing a very good job of it”, says Ram. “Otherwise we have a very difficult task in hand, to restore the lost glory of the river. And, for those who are skeptical about cleaning the river and think it may take years to do it, if not now, then when do we start?”

Asked about the lyrics for the song, Shrikrishna says when they set out, they did have a hunch that there could be an ashtakam on the river Ganga and when they looked up on Google, they were pleasantly surprised to find one written by the Aadi Shankara himself.

“We decided to structure the song in three parts; the first, that talks about the glory of Ganga, the second about the way the it has been polluted and how it has been abused and the final part about how we as citizens and devotees should take a vow to clean the river” adds Shrikrishna.

The brothers were very clear that this anthem would be one for other nationalities as it is for us Indians. “We believe that there are many admirers of the river across nationalities in the world. Though in essence, the song is classical and Indian in composition, the arrangement is very western and world music. It is a kind of tune where people can close eyes and introspect as to how they can contribute. We wanted the song to have both musical and literary value.” says Ram.

“We just composed with an idea and shot a mock video to suit the music which is currently 2.04 mins long. Most of the musicians we worked with are friends and they were all a call away. We had a very good team; Our dad, Aalap Raju, Karthik Iyer, Vedanth Bharadwaj, Prashanth Techno who is a very good composer himself and they all gave their best. The great thing is that we did not give them much notice and yet it turned out to be a fun filled collaboration with an amazing output”, he adds.

Ram and Shrikrishna had requested the NMCG that they would like to make it in an audio visual format so that not only can it be viewed and heard across social media platforms online, but also could be played on television in railway stations and other public spaces and even the radio which has more reach across the nation than the television.

“We did not have to try too hard and we just went  with the flow. Thanks to god, we really had a feeling that the music had set itself to the flow of the river; it has a slightly slower pace, then it picks up pace, goes to the higher octave and then lower. We even had comments from friends who did not understand the lyrics who said that the song is possibly be about a river. We certainly believe there was a divine intervention in the process.”

Ram and Shrikrishna were also quick to give due credit to their friend, Deepika Chandrashekaran, a filmmaker, whom they have known for a very long time. “Within a short period of time, she had discussions with us about the song and went to Varanasi along with her crew and filmed the Ganga mahotsav with very interesting shots of the Ganga aarti. She worked very hard on the mock video.

Ram says; “Currently, we are in the finalization stage with the NMCG. What you see online is essentially a part of the mock video which was sent to the government, that was shot only in Varanasi. We wanted  to show the government how powerful it can actually be. Due to fund and time constraints we could not cover much, but we are in the process of finalising a plan for the full fledged comprehensive video where we intend to cover the entire flow of the river Ganga; The Gangotri, all the prayags; Rudra Prayag, Karna Prayag, Nanda Prayag, Dev Prayag, then Munger, the Ganga Sagar and all. We want to build a story, a narrative with a climax that would have 1000-1500 people chanting the ‘Namami Gange’. We would also like to have some interesting choreography along with it. We are looking to wrap up by September, god willing. Plans are on to subtitle the video in German, Japanese, Chinese and a few other languages. At one of our concerts in Montreal,  we met this French guy who had watched the first part of the video online and said he loved it and that he has been sharing it with his friends.”

“Hopefully, our grandchildren and the generations to come can also proudly claim that this was the generation that took up to cleaning the river Ganga and we would like to request everybody to take an active interest and be positive and sincerely hoping that the song motivates people” they add.

The lyrics for Namami Gange are from the Gangashtakam written by Adi Shankara. Suhas Mahesh tells us more about Adi Shankara’s poetical genius in his column KavyaWhy India Must Celebrate Shankara

(See next page for a transcript)

Transcript:

We are Trichur brothers, Shrikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan here, talking to you exclusively on Swarajya. We are here to talk about the Namami Gange project which has been kick-started by our honourable Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi ji. We are basically Carnatic musicians. After watching Modi ji’s Madison Square Garden speech on the Namami Gange project and a host of other issues, we were really inspired to do something for the nation. As musicians, we thought the best way we could contribute to the nation is through music. We believe music has the power to carry a strong message across to all corners of the world. Especially, in a world scenario, where social network and other social platforms are extremely powerful which means that music and a message are not just limited to a country but can go right across the globe and create the required impact.

With that in mind, we thought what is it that we can do to help a particular cause like the Namami Gange movement, which has been kick-started by the government. We believe strongly that like an army man has a national duty, so do the all the citizens of the country and specially people who are in the public-performing or in the creative art forms because that is something that can greatly touch the heart of a person. We thought what we should do is compose a song with the message and spirit of Namami Gange built into the song, so that it could gradually come in and be adopted as an anthem for the entire Namami Gange movement.

Just to add on to what Ram was saying, India always stands on top of the world particularly for two things, among so many other things, one is spirituality and the other is music. In both these aspects, our country is at the top. So when the Namami Gange song began, we started working on it with the wonderful mixture of spirituality and music. It is a fact that Ganga was close to us at a spiritual level and emotional level. It is also a fact that 40% of the population of India, they depend on river Ganga for their livelihood. So even economically and in so many other aspects, safeguarding river Ganga is a national duty and I don’t think it is a choice anymore; it is a necessity of the current generation of Indians.

We as a team totally believe that God definitely has a hand in this. We just started working on this and we called some of our musician friends and within an hour or so, the entire composition happened with Ram, me, our dad and a friend called Prasanth, who is also into composing. So the music just started happening, within one and a half hours the entire song was complete and we just sent it across to the central Government and the Central Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). At that point we were not sure whether we were going to get a reply or not, but we were very satisfied with the output of the song and the spirit behind it. Within a month or so we got a reply from NMCG asking us if they could play the song in Pravasi Barathiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat summit. That is how the entire campaign began for us.

Honestly, for the very first time, I would say in my life at least, for a cause of this magnitude taken up at the national level, I see optimism over-stepping pessimism. There are people who state cleaning up of Ganga is a dream and probably think it is difficult than what Baghiratha did to get Ganges down here. But yes, with the number of people we interact with, the kind of youngsters that we see around, our own age grouped enthusiasts, the kind of social work that is happening n Varanasi and other different places in India, for the very first time I believe that the young generation of India actually believes that this is possible, when we have such a strong leader at the centre. We feel that even if it is such a difficult task, it is possible.

Add on to that the fact is also that what has been beautifully put across, you got all things great from Ganges. One tendency that you often notice in India is that something gets accepted and acknowledged only when we have a kind of statement coming from the West, which is completely changing right from the International Yoga Day to the way a lot of things have been promoted. Water conservation is an important topic today. Every country needs water conservation, so this is a very relevant topic. The cleaning of the Ganges, the way it was entirely propagated was always that the Ganges is a spiritual river. Yes, it is a spiritual river, but if you look at it, biodiversity depends on it, there is a lot of tourism that is dependent on it, fishermen live based on the Ganges. Even if there are people who are saying it is going to take 200 years, that is ok, but when are we going to start?

We are pretty active on twitter and we find a lot of people on it were there are a lot of small groups which are on their own working on the whole thing without expecting any administrative to do anything. As a leader it not only important that they set up bodies and allocate a budget to clean a particular river, but also inspire the masses. Because fortunately or unfortunately, at the end of the day, a 543 odd elected MP’s cannot change the nation. I think 1.25 billion us citizens also need to make it a point to try and do our little bit.

Actually when we started doing the composition, one that we had in mind was that the song would be in three parts. The first part talks about the glory of the Ganges. The second part talks about the pollution and the way the river has been ill-treated. The third part speaks about how we as citizens have to do something to this country and as admirers or devotees of river Ganga must take a vow to clean the river. We have thought that Adi Shankaracharya must have done an ashtakam on Ganga. We googled and were happy to find that there is a Gangashtakam composed by Adi Shankara. We just went with the flow.

One thing that we were very clear about is the song is as much as it is for Indians. We also very strongly feel that Ganga has devotees and admirers across the globe, different nationalities, different people. The first thing we said was, it has to be that the structure, the genere, has to be worth the music. Though the essence of the song is very classical and Indian, the kind of arrangement that the song has gone through is very western and at a world music level. To add to that, basically the way we went about composing the song was as Shrikrishna mentioned, we had decided we need three parts to the song. The first part had to glorify Ganges. The second part was about tried to be thought provoking so the tune had to be in a way were people can close their eyes listening to it and actually self introspect as to how I can help the cause or how I can further stop myself from damaging this great river. The third part had to be really huffle. We wanted the composition to have both musical value as well as literary value. The way we went about it was that first compose the music with an idea in mind and then we shot the video, the mock video to suit the music. The part you would have already listened to is basically the first part which talks about the glory. There was no pre-planning.

We just went by instinct and thanks to God, as the the whole thing was composed, when we listened to it, we really had a feeling that the way the music would automatically set itself like the flow of the Ganges. You will find certainly, it goes to slightly slower pace, then picks up pace, then goes to the higher octave and then comes back to the lower octave. We are planning it on a mega-scale. We are planning to cover the entire flow of the river, starting from Gangotri, covering all the prayags like; Rudra Prayag, Karna Prayag, Vishnu Prayag, Nanda Prayag, Deva Prayag. Then go towards Varanasi, cover Munger and the Ganga Sagar. And also to try and build in a story while going towards the climax, we are planning to have a group of 1000 or 1500 people, chanting the Namami Gange verse together. We are planning to have some interesting, choreography which we want to try and make it a world symbolism, as far as the Namami Gange project is concerned.

So the plans are pretty big. We are in the finalisation stage, with NMCG and God willing we should be able to start on the full video in the next couple of weeks. We are at least targeting something like September beginning to get done with the entire video.

Paani jo tera khara

Tere aansu ki dhara

Kaise mein dheekoon Santhaan hoon

Maanaa hein tujhe maa

Ye dharm hein mera

Mein tujhe tera woh sammaan dhoon

There is no question about the fact that the message of Namami Gange,the power of the song and the concept will really go far and wide. We hope it will make the required inspiration and impact to make people work much more towards the cause.

Namami Gange is a National movement and it is a great opportunity for all of us. Our grand children and their grand children can one day say that our generation was responsible for cleaning the river Ganga. I request everybody in the country and abroad, who are devotees or admirers of Ganga to take active interest and think positively. I am sure god will help us.

A media producer based in Bangalore. His interests include cinema, music and history among many other things.
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